Eau

water/eau

Water is a right in France. Water flows freely from the Seine from our taps into our homes and apartments. Wallace Fountains scattered throughout the city provide a flow of complimentary drinking water to all who want it on the streets. And there is a law in France that notes that a café has to give anyone a free carafe of water, or free glass of water (at the bar) to anyone who asks, unless there is a sign posted somewhere that says that they don’t do that.

(After ten years of living in France, I’ve only seen one café – out in the countryside – with a sign like that. But I’ve also – in ten years of living in France – never tried going up to a café counter and asking for a free glass of water without buying something else.)

Even though Paris is a modern city, a fair number of visitors ask me if the water in Paris is safe to drink. I’m always a little perplexed by that question because it’s not like France is a remote island where people don’t have plumbing. (Although I’ve been in restrooms in Paris where the plumbing could use a little work to bring it into this century.) But on the other hand, with waiters pushing bottled water, which of course, costs a bit more than tap water, I guess it’s easy to see where people get that impression.

tap water

A few places in Paris have switched to purified tap water, still or sparkling, but those places are still in the minority. I know a few restaurants back in California which have gone to purified water on tap. But when I asked a friend who owns a restaurant back there if he was going to do that, he said, “Are you kidding? We make $60,000 a year on bottled water sales.” I could see his five-figure point, although I’ve stopped buying bottled water for the most part, even though bottles of water are fairly cheap in France at the supermarket. (They range from about 25 cents, for the store-brands, and up to eighty cents for pricier bottles like Perrier, Badoit, or the popular San Pé, or San Pellegrino.)

san pellegrino

People have different relationships to water, often depending on what country they are from. Folks in the Middle East treat water differently than others because it’s a precious commodity. I’ve read stories of people in Mexico bathing their kids in bottled water, which – as someone who got wildly sick once in Mexico – can see their point. And in France, we use water for many things, but it causes problems because of the calcaire, which spots our glassware and causes dishwashers, hot water heaters, and laundry machines to seize up and refuse to budge. (Yes, I speak from experience.)

carafe d'eau

Strauss, which makes in-home water purifiers that get plumbed into home water lines told me their treatment units were a big hit in Israel, and Richard Branson partnered with them for the curiously named Virgin water, aimed at the British market. (And yes, I know there is a joke in there, but I’m going to leave that one alone.) When I saw one, I kind thought it’d be great to have, but they’re not available in France and they weren’t going to try to enter the American market either because the owner told me that Americans don’t like their plumbing fiddled with. Go figure.

There were/are some attempts to wean people in France off of bottled water. The Eau de Paris carafes didn’t quite take off – it’s been a number of years, and I’ve yet to see on in a café – I’ve only seen them in gift shops, for tourists. And there is one open-air sparkling water station. But it’s located in the 12th arrondissement, which is kind of a long way to go to get a drink of water.

water bottle

Even though the water in France is as safe as any other modern country, I, like others, filter my water. I have a Brita pitcher, which I’m sure has some ecological consequences. But I don’t drive, so I can toss recycle a plastic filter every 6 months or so. I can get a little obsessive-compulsive refilling the pitcher, but I’ve learned to deal with that through a comprehensive prescription drug regimen and my support group, which has been tremendously helpful.

However recently a wrench was thrown into my system: a sparkling water-maker. I have friends who own one, but in spite of their constant raves, it was one (of the few) kitchen gadgets that I didn’t cave in to. Then, the penguin came into my life, and from that first bubbly carafe of chilled water, I was hooked. I’m a little suspicious that there is something in that gas canister that makes one addicted to that water, but I am going through water like there was no tomorrow. (Which also has made me house-bound because filled with so much water, if I leave, it’s not an easy feat in Paris to find a place to get rid of it.)

Perrier

When people ask me what I do all day, I think about my own version of the 7-step program to get a simple glass of water. I used to tell them I went for long, leisurely walks around the canals and streets, that I went to bakeries and chocolate shops searching for the best cakes and bonbons in Paris, or that I had dinner with friends in restaurants and cafés. But now I spend my days filling water pitchers, pouring water into carafes, filling up my espresso machine, pumping gas into sparkling water bottles, searching for filters, tracking down CO2 cartridges, and pouring the filtered still water into a decorative blue vintage pitcher because I don’t like looking at the ugly plastic one and it’s not very nice for guests either. And finally, well, I won’t share with you what the last step in the flow of water is around here. But it involves the use of even more water, in a room that’s not the kitchen.

Explaining my water woes has kind of made me thirsty. So I’m off to have a drink of water. I’m first going to make sure the water is filtered. So I once I install a new filter and pass water through the filter three times to make sure it’s properly filtered according to the manufacturer’s instructions, I’ll pour it into my sparkling water machine, then run the gas through it because my week-long search for a place that has replacement cartridges has been found, which fortunately it’s only a 45 minute round-trip walk for me. Then I will reward myself with a glass of water, and a nap – because I’m exhausted.



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104 comments

  • “if you want a glass of water, it’s a verre d’eau, pronounced verredo, as if the three words were one. But if you want a specific amount of water, like 250ml of water (1 cup) it’s deux cents cinquante milliliters de l’eau,”

    That is not quite right. For a specific amount of water, you’d also ask for “deux cent cinquante millilitres d’eau”. However, for the most unspecific amount of water, you’d ask for “de l’eau” (‘some water’) – and indeed “je voudrais de l’eau” would pronounce as “jvoudrais dlo” :)

  • I second Balise’s comment, although, coming from the south-west part of France, I say de l’eau and pronounce delo. And I don’t see any situation except cooking or baking where you could ask for 250ml d’eau….
    Sometimes in cafe, they are very reluctant with giving you a verre d’eau even if you have ordered a café… which i find very annoying, but some might like the rudeness of the French garçon de café.

    • I was referring to a baking situation for that, which calls for water. But since I have to code everything in html to write here, it was hard to read through all the complex html with the italics – so I deleted the reference because it hurt my head to think about it any more. And it was interfering with my water refilling -duties.

  • Paris water is, indeed, fit to drink – I drank it all the time when I lived there. However, I learnt the hard way that my system needs a few days to adjust to it – if I drank it straight out of the tap the first couple of days back from holiday, I went down with a tummy upset. Boiled for hot drinks or used in cooking was fine, so I would buy a 2l bottle of water and use that for actual drinking, and once it was finished, I’d go back to tap and be fine.

    Unfortunately, this is still the case! My husband says “Oh, don’t be so silly!” so last time I was in Paris, I just filled my water-bottle from the tap – and the day after I got home, I was prostrated with a bad tummy-upset! It does seem to be only Paris water – I’m fine elsewhere in France!

  • Yes! The Penguin! We have this lovely kitchen pet too and I think it is fabulous for inciting me to drink more water during the day.

  • Oh the water dilemma…We used to only drink bottled water around the house but I felt a little tinge of guilt seeing all those empty bottles we accumulated at the end of the week (even though we recycle). Now, we have a Brita and it has become sort of a ritual to fill it up and if needed, use the same water bottle when we are on the go multiple times over.
    Funny though since we are Americans who speak French, we have had many times where the waiters have tried to push bottled water on us but we held strong and insisted for a ‘carafe d’eau’. Guess they have to try…

    • I don’t know why some servers push bottled water. My guess is perhaps because they think people want it? Since waiters aren’t tipped in France (it’s service compris) like they are on other places, it’s not like they are “upselling” to increase the check and get a bigger tip.

      Astier has filtered water and when I asked the waitress about it, she said it was a relief for them because they didn’t have to lug heavy cases of glass bottles of water around anymore, which they had to store in the basement.

  • I’ve always wondered about going into a bar/ café and asking for a glass of water (and nothing else). Hmmm… A summer project for me this year perhaps? And a sparkling water maker? On my wish list….

  • Hah, I have one of those eau de paris carafes at home. We have a water softening system in the apartment and I run our drinking water through a Brita filter. We do have some lead pipes in our building that are supposed to be replaced at some point… In the mean time the Brita filters claim to be able to remove most of the lead.

    We happen to live just across from that free sparkling water fountain you mentioned. It was supposed to be a test fountain to see if it was worth trying to install them elsewhere in Paris. Has the city abandoned this idea?

    Also thought I would mention that Buttes aux Cailles in the 13th has its very own natural spring and you can bottle your own spring water there from the free fountain in Place Paul Verlaine.

    • I think it’s a great idea and am not sure if it was a test or not. But it was a couple of years ago and I haven’t seen or heard about any others. It did generate a lot of publicity, though. Am not sure why it wasn’t adopted.

  • 1) Though Hong Kong is a first class city (and one where people keep parts of it very clean, much cleaner than Paris), you’re advised not to drink water out of the tap without boiling it first. Even the locals boil it first. It’s a hassle, and actually makes getting salad difficult because you have to boil water that you wash the lettuce, etc., with)
    2) When I had just arrived in Paris, around 20 years ago, armed only with my 10th grade French but looking to really learn the language, I walked into a little side-street cafe near the Sorbonne. I asked for a coffee and a mug of water – ‘une tasse d’eau,’ or I might have even said ‘un tasse d’eau.’ The barman took out a glass and a mug, and pointed to each: “un verre, une tasse. un verre, une tasse.” I still have a soft spot for that place.

  • I find that people use centilitres, not millilitres. In fact most people don’t understand at first if I ask for a 500ml bottle of something, but understand perfectly if I ask for 50cl.

  • Haha, David, this post is very funny! I hate drinking water from the tap – actually, I hate seeing the little floaty bits of ‘calcaire’ in my glass everytime I go to drink water from the tap, which I much prefer from an environmental standpoint. We tried maintaining a Brita jug but due to the influence of my convenience-orientated bf we’ve started buying 6packs of 1.5L Vittels. But, yes, I’ve found drinking impurity-free water in the city a constant thirst and moral battle. Thanks for letting us know about the free water tip – this will come in handy in summer!
    @Lore – thanks for the natural spring tip! Now I have a reason to love that quartier even more!
    @phanmo – Yes, despite following an metric measuring system, all volumes are measured in ‘centilitres’, which makes following Anglo recipes here and ordering drinks whenever I go home to Aus very confusing!
    Ps, I’ve found the cheapest Brita filters so far at one of the Tang Freres in in the 13th, it was 30€ for 6 if my memory serves me correctly…

  • The sickest I’ve ever been was after brushing my teeth with tap water in a very upscale hotel in Cozumel. Silly me. But whenever I’m in Paris I always drink the tap water or order a carafe of water in a restaurant. I’m a water drinker because I don’t like the fizz (or the price) of cola. But in Paris I sometimes have trouble getting a slice of lime for my water. I’m frequently looked upon as though I’d asked from a large cow patty with my water. Do the French just not do this or am I incorrect when I ask for “un verre d’eau avec une tranche de lime”? I always add please and thank you. Is this just frowned upon?

    • It’s very uncommon to ask for lemon to go in a glass of tap water. However it’s perfectly normal to get a slice of lemon (ask for rondelle, which implies a “lemon round”) with a bottle of sparkling water.

      Limes aren’t normally stocked at cafés, although with the popularity of mojitos and other cocktails, some might have them. I’ve not seen one ever served with sparkling water, but they’re called citron vert, for your next trip : )

  • Here in Brazil, tap water is safe, and at home most people simply filter their water, but we use a different kind of filter, made of clay. At restaurants, however, bottled water is the norm and I’ve never seen anyone question that. Maybe it’s because bottled water here is quite cheap: R$1,50 for a 600 ml bottle.

  • David, you’re supposed to change the filter in a Brita pitcher every 8 wks or 150 litres, according to their website, not ‘every six months or so’. If you’re only changing the filter 2x yr, you may as well not bother with a Brita at all, b/c the filter loses it efficacy after a couple of months.

  • A$AP Rocky did NOT like the water when he went on French radio Generation88, and he decided to rap about it: http://generations.fr/video/freestyle-video/21754/aap-rocky-live-des-studios-de-generations-

    Hilarious.

  • Histoire d’O… (Pardon the bad joke. This reminded me of the popular erotic French novel and movie :-) Great story, David. I just taught my France travel workshops at a Seattle community college on Saturday, and sure enough, I got at least two questions about how safe Parisian – and French – water was… One of the students actually answered before I got a chance to: “France is a First World country, you know!” :-) Love it. Life was a bit easier when I lived in Paris. I never had to deal with all the water filtration systems and Manufacturers’ instructions. Like all French people, I drank a lot of mineral water, mostly “plate” (non sparkling,) but also tap water at the restaurant. Love the pics you chose to illustrate your story btw. Bonne semaine à Paris. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  • David,

    So agree on drinking the ‘local’ water! Now that you have your Penguin, have you tried adding amazing syrups to make your own flavored soda? Honestly, I’ve been a huge fan of your f o r e v e r, and am strictly making this comment because my friend Melissa Yen has an awesome company here in Chicago. Check them out – Jo Snow is truly fab – http://www.josnowsyrups.com.

  • There are two separate water supplies for Paris. The Left Bank water is stocked in the Montsouris reservoir and comes from two aqueducts, from Fontainebleau and from the Vanne river 150km to the East. The RIght Bank is not so lucky and has to make do with treated Seine water.

  • My weakness is Perrier. I grew up on the stuff and now in the US, it’s an expensive taste to have. What doesn’t help is all my children have a taste for it too.
    Water is a precious commodity here in Colorado. Unless we have a great winter season with plenty of snow, we’re in drought conditions during summer and have to conserve water. So we pray for snow.

    Nazneen

  • So, I live in Phoenix and it’s actually a really bad idea to drink the tap water here. It’s not particularly good for you and causes lots of house and plumbing problems.

    So as far as water purification systems in America, we’ve got one. And oddly enough, I grew up with one in Wisconsin.

  • We’ve had good results with the Sears under counter 2-stage water filter. No more Brita. You need a hole in the sink (like the place where the spray hose is) for the filtered water to come out. Also make sure the connections are tight, because if not, you can have more water flowing over your kitchen floor than you ever wanted. But once it’s hooked up, you have filtered water on demand, just have to change the filters once in a while.

    http://www.sears.com/kenmore-2-stage-drinking-water-filter/p-04238461000P?prdNo=2&blockNo=2&blockType=G2

  • Reading this has made me thirsty. Must drink. Water.,

  • My husband and I are also addicted to our Soda Stream. I’m sure we’ve saved thousands of dollars by now.

  • Yes water. Paris water is as you mentioned very calcaire.

    Even more so many of the older buildings still have old lead pipes bringing the water
    into our apartments and it’s this fact that is more dangerous.

  • So…. where does the support group meet?

  • I just read that Maker’s Mark is reducing the alcohol content of their bourbon from 45% to 42%, so I can only assume that the water they’re adding has been aged in charred white oak barrels for 5-6 years, and that they introduce the seared French Oak slats to this water at the appropriate time.

  • I have been eying that penguin machine for some time now….wondering if I should buy it and you just convinced me. If a product passes the David Liebovitz test, then it’s good enough for me!

  • It’s the environmental impact of bottled water that concerns me the most. I’d happily pay the price of a bottle of water for filtered sparkling water in a restaurant. But maybe I’m addicted too…

  • Very funny/erotic post! “Americans don’t like their plumbing fiddled with…” and Virgin water….

    I’m Mexican, but even I brush my teeth with bottled water in Mexico.

    The water in Paris is really good, though. I visited with someone who doesn’t drink alcohol because he wants to be ANONYMOUS, and we had it with every meal.

    Unrelated to this post, my children are addicted to your chocolate chip cookies and my mom ate most of a Ginger Cake by herself!

  • I think you may have solved one of this year’s gift-giving conundrums. My mom recently confessed a new addiction of bottled, sparking water. I see a few CO2 cartridges in her future!

  • Fifty years ago when I first visited Paris Americans were worrying about the water. So that’s where it comes from. All the world was once … Mexico!

    The American suspicion was confirmed when our Parisian hosts always had bottles of water on the table.

    Imagine our surprise when they explained they filled them up with the tap!

  • Absolutely hilarious. David, you are the new “Art Buchwald”–or are you and everyone else too young to remember dear old Art who spent much time in France.

  • The power of suggestion…I too ran to get a glass of water
    The Brita was my 1st household item I purchased in Paris..
    On the other hand Paris’ chalky water is fine for painting watercolors.
    The Penquin is out of stock by now…sigh

  • The thing about drinking water is that it should be pH 7 to provide health benefits. Below that is not good for you. Most mineral water brands inform how alkaline they are on their labels. A few English/Scottish brands don’t bother to tell you that. So after a little research I found out that Italian water (Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino) are the best on the alkaline aspect. They are both above pH 7. I suppose that also improves taste as well.

  • Joan and Stephanie: I’ve been thinking about one of these machines for a while, but didn’t realize how much I’d become attached to it. The “penguin” has glass bottles, which I like. But there are other models that are less. Interestingly, I saw somewhere on the city of Paris website that they are offering sparkling water machines (for purchase) but there wasn’t any pictures or much information on them.

    Ann: I’m also fine paying for purified water in restaurants so they’re not concerned about losing income from getting rid of bottles. I offered that to my friend with the restaurant and he said he was worried about the backlash (people going on Yelp and complaining about paying for water, etc..) so he didn’t want to do it.

    lucille: For a while, the city of Paris was noting that the calcium in the water was good for women’s bones (and men’s) although am not sure about the veracity of that. I know that lead pipes are supposed to be replaced but I’m sure there are some old buildings in Paris with those in them.

    Lety: No inference intended! But it was interesting the marketing studies they did and what they learned. The water machine is kind of a great idea, especially for those who want hot water on demand – and having it plumbed in means so filling and refilling. And filling and refilling. And filling and…

    • Unfortunately there exists more lead piping in the older buildings in Paris then one
      could imagine. There must be danger in this and exactly how could we prove it?

  • Uneccessarily paying for water when you don’t have to is pretty dumb, in my opinion. It probably has more to do with my view on financial management than water though :)

  • As any north american do, I asked when I arrived if the water was drinkable.. I think it has to do with how everything looks old when you arrive in Europe compared to Canada x) I’ve been drinking tap water out of my carafe for 2 years now and I only store my water in the fridge to keep it cold. Most people I see at the grocery store buy these huge packs of water, sometimes just for “à coté du lit”.
    I was shocked at how they were not concerned about plastic bottles, even though most of them recycle.

  • I love San Pellegrino and drink it whenever I’m feeling like a splurge. Otherwise, it’s Eau Isabell or Eau des Sources for the likes of me. I don’t trust myself to remember to clean out and change water filters.

  • David,
    The “penguin” link to Amazon: the Penguin Sodastream Starter Kit is currently unavailable. Was thinking about getting one when we go back to the States in a couple of days. Alas.
    We’ve been in Paris for a couple of weeks now, and always order a “carafe d’eau” along with lunch or dinner (along with the vin, bien sur), no problems, no one pushing the bottled. Great, amusing post, once again.

  • You’re funny . . .

  • This most made me smile :). All I could think of was the Adam Sandler movie “The Waterboy” as I read it. Cheers for making me smile at 5.36am when smiles are hard to come by :)

  • We’ve been using the Soda Stream Penguin since 2009.

    I’m surprised that it has taken a long time for it to catch on. We also make our own soft drinks, buying the Soda Stream syrup products from Best Buy or Bed, Bath and Beyond, here in the USA.

    We have a whole-house water filtering system (on a well in the countryside), but we also use a Pur filter attachment on the faucet to make our sparkling water, tea or coffee.

  • After reading all that I think I might stick to bottled water rather than drink what comes out of the tap in my apartment when on my upcoming visit to Paris. my tummy is not the strongest part of my body. Enjoyed reading all the posts and your comments David.

  • David, sorry to crush your dreams =) but cafés don’t have to give anyone a free glass of water… Not always. The truth is:
    - Restaurants, since always serving meals, have to give a free carafe/glass of water (and bread, etc.),
    - Cafés, when serving a meal (to you), have to give (you) a free carafe/glass of water (and bread, etc.),
    - Cafés, when not serving a meal, don’t have to give a free glass of water. In fact they can make you pay for it if they display its price.

    DGCCRF link: http://www.economie.gouv.fr/dgccrf/Carafe-d-eau-verre-d-eau

    Like said in one of your links above, “a restaurant [or café for that matter] cannot charge for a carafe of water when it accompanies a meal” (emphasis mine).

    • Whew! I did see a café out in the countryside that has a hand-scrawled sign on the wall saying that a glass of water without purchase was 10 centimes.

      And thanks for the link. I like how they were certain to point out “Le fameux “verre d’eau gratuit” n’est absolument pas obligatoire dans un café.” I didn’t realize the (supposed free) glass of water was actually famous!

  • Found n Paris last April the waiters at quite a few restaurants asked if we wanted water in a bottle or du robinet, from the tap. Always du robinet, and wine of course. Glad to say Sydney restaurants also happy to offer the choice, and the tap water is at no charge. Agree with previous comment that the environmental burden of bottled water is enormous, especially horrible in third world countries where the tap water is undrinkable but there is little or no opportunity to recycle the plastic. We try to refill our bottles with boiled water, but it’s not always possible when travelling.

    Unrelated comment – gotta say the Larousse English/French dictionary Ipad app is fabulous, gives forms of colloquial usage and when online gives audio pronunciation. Reminded because I had to check the gender of “robinet” – of course.

  • I am surprised nobody mentioned what is most important about water after its quality. It’s its taste. I didn’t pay much attention to it until I went to a water tasting event. Tap water is chlorinated and does have a chemical taste, even when fizzy. On the other hand, San Pellegrino and Perrier are pure mineral water. The only treatment allowed is filtration. No chemical addition, no changes in its mineral content, just a little bit of CO2 added. It comes out of the bottle just like it does out of the spring. A real treat. No comparison with chlorinated tap water, even out of a Penguin.

  • Oh my gosh! David, it’s like you’re a fly on our (water) wall! I also spend my days here on the Cote d’Azur filtering water, gassing water, traveling large distances in search of gas canisters, and on top of that filling various household appliances with dubious poisonous looking liquids to get rid of the dreaded “calcaire”!….just like you in the more refined Paris. At least we have forest around us to deal with our restroom needs after all this water-play. And I thought it was just us down here with a water obsession.

  • On my first trip to Paris, I studiously avoided the tap water since although it’s safe I knew that doesn’t mean you don’t need to adjust to it. Imagine my horror a couple of days later when I found the friend I was staying with had been filling his bottles from the tap. Alas, the worst happened – and my friend lived five floors up in an apartment with no bathroom. The only bathroom was a floor down, shared with several other apartments. The lock didn’t work. It was filthy. Oh, and it was Turkish-style.

    Actually, it was a really useful experience. When I’ve encountered other difficult situations, I’ve thought “If I can survive a stomach upset in a remote, filthy, unlocked Turkish toilet, this is a breeze!”

  • Hi !
    Tap water is perfectly drinkable in most French towns, I think. In Grenoble, where I was born, water is almost as “pure” as bottled water. But elsewhere (Lyon for instance) it may have a strange taste.

  • David you should watch a BBC documentary called “The foods that make billions: Liquid gold”. It is about the bottled water industry and I find it very interesting. You can watch it on YouTube.

  • David, did you find the replacement soda stream cartridges at a better price? 33 euros was pretty steep!

    • Yes, a French friend with the same machine said they have them at Darty stores. (Oddly, when I went to the Kiala relais in Paris, which was noted on their website as a place to exchange CO2 cartridges, no one knew what I was talking about.) My friend said they are around €12 or so at Darty, so I will take a hike over there.

  • David, I have been following your blog for a long time and I have enjoyed every article as well as the readers’ comments. I just wanted to finally thank you and express how much your honest, informative and colorful writing means to me. Thank you very much!

  • In the mid-80s, I avidly studied French in high school, with big dreams of eventually studying in Paris. Well-meaning friends always alarmed me with tales of how the French drank bottled water — the fizzy stuff! — if they weren’t drinking wine. And that if I were going to visit, I will need to learn how to like unflavored *sparkling* mineral water or wine. Because people allegedly didn’t drink the tap water in France or that it was going to cost me when I had to buy bottles of water or wine.

    I never did study abroad, and I did learn to love plain fizzy water (but not wine). I wish your blog were around in 1987! [I eventually went to Cal in '88, but I never went downtown to Chez Panisse until the mid-90s.]

  • Thanks for your post today on Eau, it gave me a quiet laugh which I desperately needed today!

  • i don’t trust the water in most modern cities here in the US, so i can see not trusting it in europe. im the daughter of paranoid hippy parents though who thought fluoride in water was probably poison so, eh.

  • I have been a hard core Penguin lover and user for about 5 years now. And seeing as Oakland’s water either comes from the Sierras or the Oakland Hills, it tastes amazing (I do filter it though)! The piece de resistance (and I’m sorry to mention this since I know you can’t get them) is a good squeeze of Meyer lemon juice and wedge in every glass.

    Ahhhhhhhhh!

  • In Paris I’m fine with using tap water for cooking and drinking (though I prefer to drink bubbles), but I use bottled water for making coffee because it affects the taste, and the calcaire build-up in the bouilloire give me the willies. One of the cheaper bottled brands sells water from different sources with very different mineral compositions. The closest Franprix carries the version with 112 mg calcium/liter but I go out of my way to buy the version with 11 mg/liter. Mineral contents and flavors vary wildly among water brands, but that’s a whole follow-up post, isn’t it?

  • David. Your blog is one of the best. It’s after midnight in my part of Ontario, Canada and I chuckled a lot as I read the blog and the comments. Having consumed more than my fair share of water this evening – well water that tastes great, no chlorine or fluoride to contend with – I’ll soon have to go in search of relief of same! I had one of those fizzy water makers many years ago and thought it was great. I can’t remember what happened to it!

    Ken I’m not too young to remember Art Buchwald.

  • Addicted as well. In our motorhome, no less… traveling the USA, from Bed, Bath & Beyond and Beyond to find gas chargers.

  • Here in Portland, OR we have clean and tasty tap water direct from the Bull Run Reservoir on Mt. Hood. It tastes very good right out of the tap. So, I never buy bottled water.

    Since I know people who have added filtration systems to their home water system here in the U.S. I was surprised by the business that thought Americans would not like their filtration product.

    I have noticed that, unlike when I was a kid, restaurants in the U.S. do not automatically bring glasses of water to your table. They do bring water and unlimited refills if you ask.

  • When I participated in a Nordic Walk at Champs de Mars, I was introduced to a new kind of water filter that fits the Brita jug. It’s from Best Water Technology (https://www.bwt-filter.com/en/Pages/default.aspx). They add magnesium back into the water and it makes it taste much more palatable and supposedly, it makes better coffee/tea. You can also buy refills for the cartridges which totally makes sense as I hated to throw away those Brita ones every month. The only place that will accept those cartridges for recycling are les Nouveaux Robinsons shops which are hard to get to if you don’t live nearby.

  • David, I would recommend you to watch this documentary about Nestle and their big business with bottled water: http://www.bottledlifefilm.com/ it’s an eye opener.

  • I loved this post.

    thanks to share with us,

    However only one addition: when I came to france I thought water was amazingly expensive here!

    and a couple of things I loved: San pé, which for an italian like me is a bit wierd…but funny and then when you speak about your sparkling maker for the water. This machine is amazing: I bought one for my parents in italy and now, each time I am there I spend a lot of time preparing more and more bottles

    Well that’s it, have a good day.
    g

  • Great post. Water is a vital resource that is under threat in so many ways these days- lack of regulation, dumping of waste even where it’s illegal. In the US, where political campaigns are so expensive, many politicians like to look the other way when powerful businesses have unsound environmental practices.

    NYC, where I live, has water that has become virtually dangerous to drink (or shower in). They use so much chlorine and other chemicals to kill whatever enters the open reservoirs from which the water comes, that you can really taste it in the water. And chlorine has been implicated in bladder cancer, and who knows what else. When you take an unfiltered shower here, it produces a very strong (vaporous) smell of chlorine in the bathroom. And again, who knows what other chemicals. A glass of flouride, anyone? Also, in spite of all that, NYC water still has parasites and bugs in it. Just ask all the people who drink it and can’t figure out why they have intestinal problems. For the past 20 years I have used a three-tier water filtering system that was installed by my “water guy” under the sink, with a separate spigot on the top. Filters are changed by him once a year, and I use it for cooking and drinking, and even some rinsing of food (salad). Ten years ago, he put filters on my showers. I cannot tell you how much better my water tastes, btw. Even when we put it through the Penguin machine. And no stomach upsets.

    Now, our favorite local cafe/restaurant here has installed flat and bubbly water filtered on tap, by the glass. It’s not super cheap, but it is so much more ecologically sound that it’s the only water we will buy there. And most health food restaurants in the city filter their water, for FREE! What is it they know that other restaurants don’t?

  • I drink tap water all the time in North America and in France. The only time tap water has ever left a bad taste in my mouth was in Spain, for some reason, although it was probably just an impression.

  • People ask if the water is safe to drink in France, because France is next to Italy! And I’m not completely sure it’s “safe” to drink in Italy…

    I dislike bubbly water. I dislike the perceived saltiness from mineral water. I always feel like I’m letting the waiter down when I ask for still, tap water (at the hoity toity restaurants her in Napa, CA!!!)

    My parents got one, however they found that they couldn’t use their tapwater, because of the chloramine added (they live in Berkeley, close to Chez P)… so now they buy bottled water and put it into the sodastream thing… seems like a huge effort to lug gallons of still home…

  • Co2 is a gas that is expelled by our lungs with every breath. One has to question why people are so happy to put more of that gas into their stomachs in the form of sparkling beverages. The body has to work that much harder to get Co2 out. Buzz kill, I know.

  • I think when people ask if the tap water in Paris is safe to drink, they mean, are there any of the same kinds of toxic chemicals that the US puts in it’s water, like flouride and chloromines. You won’t drop dead from drinking a few glass but there are serious consequences for regular use without progressive filtering. (Clorox-owned Brita’s are not built to handle chloromines – gee, why is that? Adding a pinch of ascorbic acid will neutralize them.)

  • Hi David,

    I have a non-water related query. I am hoping to make your almond cake recipe soon but as I live in the UAE where you cannot obtain almond paste and my attempts at having it shipped have been fruitless, I will need to make my own. I found a Jacques Torres recipe which calls for 250 gms of sugar and 75 gms of honey to 500 gms of almonds.
    If I use the above-mentioned paste, how much do you suggest I dial back on the sugar the recipe calls for? Or do I not need to change any quantities?
    Thank you in advance :-)

    • I’m surprised you can’t find almond paste in the Arab Emirates – so many pastries use it as a base. I’ve not used homemade almond paste in that cake so can’t provide specifics, but the almond paste I use is about 45% almonds, so you can use that to fiddle with the recipe and your homemade almond paste. Happy baking!

  • Nine years ago I had a short-term work assignment at Le Defense. Having already switched from bottled water to tap water at home in Texas, I dutifully brought my water bottle with me and filled it during the day from the water fountain at work. My French co-workers were aghast that I would drink tap water! What could I possibly be thinking?? I thought the water tasted great, but maybe it was from the joy of living and working in Paris. :-) Love your blog, David!

  • Thanks David, I’ll do the maths and work out how much sugar to use! I thought finding almond paste would be so easy but have not yet found a shop or supermarket that stocks it and I can tell you I have tried many! Marzipan yes, but not paste. Weird. Still, lets see how it goes with the home made stuff.
    Love your blog and your books

  • Stephane is right: it’s all about taste. I was a judge several years ago at a municipal water contest. Towns were invited to bring unmarked Mason jars of their town treated water and spring water. All three judges rated our top three spring water finalists above the top three treated water finalists. The treated water might be “safe,” but if it tastes of chlorine or other chemicals, instead of tasting like water, nobody will drink it.

  • This is hilarious , thank you. And I just returned from Paris and so appreciateyour recommendations (love the poulet crapaudine at the market!). Wish I’d known about your blog on the past…but now I do

  • I live in the far suburbs of Paris (near Bordeaux), and we drink our water from the tap all the time. It comes from local well sources (not the Dordogne), and every year we get a statement from the water company that lists all of the components (besides the actual water). It meets all the French and EU norms for quality, and unless they have done some work on the system lately, it has a decent taste.

    Water in France (and in most of Europe, I would say) is quite safe to drink.

  • My husband and I love high quality Japanese and Chinese tea. When we go to Paris we always bring our teapot etc.and spend time drinking tea in the hotel. We buy botteled water at the market but it is amazing how different the water makes the tea look and taste. The tea color is brownish rather than bright green and the flavor is not as good. Maybe we are buying the wrong water….

  • We always drink the tap water here in Spain but the majority of people are buying bottled. We even got a chiller system for under the sink, the water gets filtered then chilled, so important in the summer to have cold water. It runs to a special thin tap, while the normal water supply goes to the sink.

  • When I studied abroad in France, I was the only one in the group that didn’t drink alcohol so I always had the carafe to myself (even if it was a little tricky to procure). The hardest thing to find was ICE! Coming from AZ I always drink my water with a huge amount of ice and missed it so much when I was there. Funny the things you notice when you travel. Even though I miss so much about Paris, it’s always good to come home and appreciate the huge free glass of ice water your waiter refills without even asking!

  • Hilarious. Thank you!

  • You can also fill up your water from a naturally occurring spring in the 16th. Read about it here: http://justanotheramericaninparis.blogspot.com/2010/11/from-source.html

  • I would not have any problem with the water in Paris if it is in places, as you say, purified tap. However, late last fall, we went to visit our daughter and son-in-law who now live in Italy. I was told that in the Naples area where they live that bottled water is de rigeur–an absolute must.The water there is not at all safe and has ghastly chemicals from industry in it. They buy monster bottles on the base and shlep them home. Wine is also much preferred to drink, even a little Perino, Italian beer.

  • Really fun read and amusing comments too… makes me appreciate the everyday miracle of great water. Can’t wait to visit that spring in the 16th this spring when we return to Paris.

    We are lucky to live in the Gatineau Hills of West Quebec where our delicious deep well water comes from the same aquifer as a locally famous spring to which people drive from miles around to fill large water bottles.

    That water is wonderful on its own out of the tap, but even better sparkly… and no sodium… or shipping… or bottles to recycle. I love the Penguin.

    Can I put my science nerd beanie on in response to a couple of other commenters?

    Madame Doise, your observations about alkalinity are puzzling to me. We’re all made up of water (60-70%, depending on avoir du pois) and we are alive because, like our ancestors, we drink any old water to replenish water losses each and every day. Isn’t that a pretty big benefit? The idea that what we eat or drink changes our body’s pH is not based in science. Sounds a lot more like effective marketing of unprovable hypotheses to sell (particular) bottled water brands!

    Nancy, your body doesn’t have to work to get rid of the CO2… most of it dissolves immediately on swallowing, is expelled through burping and the rest actually helps digestion of your food. The highly acidic environment of your stomach is more than equal to a bit of cabonic acid. Very little is absorbed. No buzz kill, after all!

    Okay, enough. I’ll go back to savouring your writing…

  • Just returned from a week in Paris…and not the first …but…always amazed how good the tap water is….even Right Bank water…didn’t know it was Seine water…doesnt taste like river, swamp or chlorine either…..only NYC water is anywhere near as good for US municipal water. Of course, in a country where they care about food, water is a close third (behind wine, of course) !

  • After living in BFE, Russia, for the past six months, where the tap water is brown and smells like dead dog, the water in Paris is like liquid gold. I drank it straight from the tap without thinking about it. I’ve been drinking distilled water for so many months I’d forgotten what actual water tastes like!

  • There is a famous word play with water in french:
    “Je préfère le vin d’ici à l’au-delà”;
    The sentence has two meanings:
    Je préfère le vin d’ici à l’au-delà = I prefer wine from here than to be dead
    Je préfère le vin d’ici à l’eau de là = I prefer wine from here than water from there.

    I love your way of writing David.
    Great blog!

  • To me, bottled water is proof that humans are a really really stupid species. It makes me sad to think of the waste that goes into our land fills and oceans because somehow people think bottled water is better or safer. The reality is, in most instances, that bottled water is simply bottled tap water. Sometimes filtered and sometimes not. The fact that large companies like Coca Cola and Nestle are free to take the water from public utilities and then sell it at a 1900 percent markup is criminal. Additionally, the horrible ecological impact that bottled water has is likewise criminal. In America alone some 17 million barrels of oil are used just to make plastic water bottles. Arguably one of the biggest corporate sins against this planet is bottled water. Please just say no to bottled water.

    http://www.watercache.com/blog/2011/10/must-see-water-documentaries-provide-insight-into-future-water-crisis/

  • I think that part of the reason that people buy bottled water is all the scare stories put out by environmental progressives about how bad our water is. They talk forever about minute risks that they perceive from adding chlorine to water, lead in soldered joints in pipes, etc. I wonder whether they took the technique from the tin-hat right-wingers who worry about fluoridation.

    No one seems to realize any more that a treated water supply is one of the two main reasons we no longer have major disease epidemics – the other is sewers (not sewage treatment, but contained sewers).

  • I’m from Austria and I love our tap water because it is absolutely tasteless. Bottled water is a waste of money when the best water ever comes out of your tap! When I was in Dublin some summers ago to work there, my host mother told me that their tap water was delicious and absolutely safe to drink. I tried and to the surprise of the nice lady spat it out immediately – the water tasted like water from a swimming pool! Is the water in Paris chlorinated as well?

    Nadja

    • I don’t think the water in Paris is chlorinated but when I go to San Francisco, I can smell chlorine n the water. I am concerned about the toxic runoff from all the cigarette butts that are tossed on the ground here (they say the run-off infects the Seine, where we get some of our water). But I really don’t want to buy bottled water so I use a Brita. It likely doesn’t get rid of everything, though.

  • I live in Tampa, Florida and we just came off of a 48 hour boil water alert (i guess the water plant lost power for a bit). After lugging cases of bottled water up my stairs to drink, brush teeth, and cook, I could not be more thankful for tap water.

  • Fluoridation in the public water supply in America virtually eliminated tooth decay. However, the generation of kids being raised on bottled water—without fluoride—is experiencing more tooth decay than their parents. So typical—over-react and cause another problem.
    I’m living in Paris for a year, and we checked on the availability of the Penguin machine before we came over. It wasn’t a deal point, but we are glad to have it here. Yes, we buy the refills at Darty for 12 Euros, and have a spare so that we don’t have to go immediately to replace. I was hoping that the calcium in the water would make my fingernails extra strong, but it doesn’t seem so. Of course, that may take a few more months.
    We live on Ile de la Cite. Is our water left or right bank water?
    Love reading your blog, David, and always look for you when I’m over in your part of town.
    Jeannie

    • Your suggestion that the forced medicating of the U.S. population through the public’s water supply with fluoride has eliminated tooth decay is questionable at best with lots of literature to suggest that not only is this not the case but that fluoride actually comes with a whole bag of side effects. As a note, Europe is not seeing a generation of kids with worse tooth decay than their parents and Europe has actually stopped fluoridation of their water due to health concerns. In U.S. it probably has more to do with over consumption of soda, candy and other processed foods than anything else. Start with Wiki and follow the sources.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_fluoridation_controversy

  • I love your new kitchen!

  • Thanks, Drew. I should have known that the information I had was anecdotal at best. I don’t really care one way or the other, but my mother (frequently wrong) and my dentist had said this, so unfortunately, I believed it. Thanks for setting me straight.